I sat through the entire BOS meeting armed with my “tedious” public comment. Sam-whoever-he-am wants my voice silenced but probably only on this issue that his side won. On the ones his side loses, he likely wants full throated public comment. Witness his nonstop blather on 48 Hills.
This decision by the 11 dwarves may be a watershed for San Francisco. It is clearly a win for the self-interest at the expense of community. It’s a win for the ownership class—which includes the rent control master tenant class—against the property-less free spirits. It’s the plodding ants crushing the flighty grasshoppers. It’s those that gots winning against those that ain’ts.
It’s the tech corps with their PR astroturf operators trouncing the bumbling, disorganized progressives. The astroturf at the hearing—by my observation about 95% white and upper middle class—seemed to be exclusively Airbnb property owners. One or two lone progressives (was that Fernando in the hat in the front row?) booed and clapped like hooligans, especially when Campos made his impassioned speech calling out the unfairness of Airbnb nonpayment of taxes.
But the nice-whites with their identical, corporate-sponsored “HomeSharing” stickers over hearts throbbing in unison for Chiu outnumbered the progressives at least 10-1. They did the finger wiggle-waggle in silent, gleeful support, the wiggle oddly a relic of Occupy, corporations absorbing and repurposing the social inventions of the grassroots.
The political madness that is San Francisco is fascinating. But there is tragedy beneath the surface, the age old calamity of the displacement of peoples. San Francisco is unique not because of its location, its climate, its architecture or even its history. It’s unique because it has long been the home of weirdos, social adventurers, radical artists and political pioneers. These are the people that lost big yesterday.
Progressive politics in SF may be over—Airbnb may prove the bellwether. The forces of the Organized Money Power have triumphed both from within—in the decades of real estate appreciation that have enriched even progressives—and from without in the invasion of the techie corporatists. The biggest tragedy—IMHO—is that the socio-economic stratification Campos tries in vain to make a campaign issue has been approved by the supes and will roar forward, emptying out what’s left of the middle in SF and destroying social space for the true creatives.
The progressives will hold turf for a while. Randy Shaw got part of what he wanted in Jane Kim’s Tenderloin, the private right to sue to preserve his bailiwick of SROs. So these particular progs will hold onto their colonized poor, to the addicts, the mentally ill, the parolees that are the base of their power in the TL. But the Tenderloin—I live in an SRO—is on the chopping block. Pieces of it are being cut off quietly by the Money Power.
In the Mission the progressives will fight a rear guard action for a season. Local 2 lost big. Airbnb will put their unionized Latino ladies out of work. And of course, Campos is the biggest loser and thus the radical left Latino and gay activist sensibility he represents.
If Campos cannot counter the Airbnb victory laps Chiu will take on his way to the assembly race, Chiu may win handily. The transactional political mechanic; the assembler of complex middle way legislation; the smooth legislative operator (Chiu) may crush the passionate “man-of-the-people”; immigrant-turned-Harvard-lawyer; Milk-Ammiano gay activist (Campos.)
Campos’ problem—from my perspective—is the problem of the entrenched, reactionary progressive movement in SF. Its moral politics is narrowly focused and increasingly ineffective. I’m all for moral politics, but if the glasses through which you see the black hats and the white hats, the victims and oppressors are too narrow, you become absurd.
And then the dwarves rise to the top, like Avalos, Mar and before them Mirkirimi, Daly and Dufty. And lone rangers like Campos—guys who are genuinely passionate—are left to flounder when they blast away invoking the Fair Share meme on Airbnb taxes, with a bit of hooligan clapping from Fernando and Calvin in the peanut gallery.
Is there any hope for the future of progressive politics in SF? I’m putting my money on Jane Kim.
As four of the eleven dwarves offered up transactional, supportive amendments yesterday (Breed, Weiner, Farrell, Cohen) to curry favor with boss man Chiu and as three of the eleven dwarves offered poison pill amendments (Mar, Avalos, Yee) that were going nowhere, only Jane Kim seemed to have independence. Her amendment was—admittedly—to carry water for Randy Shaw who has been pounding his private interest to sue in his blog. But Kim seemed the canny, autonomous insider.
First, Kim effectively bitch-slapped Weiner on his preposterous litigator-at-the-dock BS re the “extremity” of her amendment. Weiner was left whimpering by Kim’s reference to hard data re frivolous lawsuits and the use of this meme by the Koch Bros. But she also admitted that she’d watered down her non-profit-right-to-sue amendment in consultation with the Mayor’s office.
This raises the question: is Kim the more effective champion of the left-progressive moral vision than Campos? Jane Kim doesn’t wear her morality on her sleeve. She doesn’t give stump speeches to the other supes, antagonizing them. But she brings home the bacon to Randy, which Campos does not.
San Francisco needs a revitalized progressive movement. After decades of pitched battles with the Money Power— a power which like Sauron never, ever sleeps—SF needs not just new faces. It desperately needs a larger, wider progressive left vision. Absent that—and absent a new libertarian or conservative vision from the other side of the moral debate that divides us all— Onward Dwarves!